Health: The rule of law could end mass shootings

Campaigning politicians in Canada and the U.S. are arguing for stricter gun laws to address the epidemic of gun deaths. I predict they will fail. Why? Because politicians consistently demonstrate they have not read history or studied psychology. Furthermore, it’s been my experience they do not have the intestinal fortitude to pass justifiable, tough-on-crime laws.

I believe this issue is no longer just an issue of security, crime and punishment. Due to all its ramifications for our bodily, mental and societal well-being, I believe it has become a health issue.

California has the most restrictive gun laws in the U.S., but they are clearly not tough enough. California suffers the most mass shootings in the country. When penalties are not severe, these laws have no effect on human psychology, and shootings continue.

Aristotle, the philosopher, preached 2,000 years ago that punishment is a form of medicine. Jesus Christ agreed that bad deeds deserve censure.

During a visit to Singapore, I learned how Lee Kwan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore, approached the psychology of criminal behaviour. His mantra for crime and gun control was, “Don’t show your teeth if you’re not prepared to bite.”

Guns are strictly controlled in Singapore and anyone caught with one will be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison and six painful canings. In addition, anyone using a gun in committing an offence faces a mandatory death sentence. Accomplices face the same punishment. Sentences are carried out quickly. This sends a powerful message.

One reader, who lived in Singapore, sent this information to me. He said people were informed by the government that anyone caught using illegal drugs would be shot. The first offender who did not take notice and was caught had one finger shot off. He was told the next time it would be his head. This reader then informed me the use of illegal drugs quickly became past history!

Politicians who believe capital punishment does not deter crime should go to Singapore and see for themselves. Even before travelers disembark from the plane or leave the airport, multiple messages reinforce the law, “Death penalty for drug traffickers.” People get the message. Gun crimes are extremely rare in Singapore.

If North America had similar tough punishments, it would not take long for gun offenders to feel the bite of the law.

It’s hard to comprehend the emotional suffering caused by mass shootings. It’s beyond tragic when innocent bystanders fall victim to gun violence. If you live in a drug- and gun-infested neighbourhood, you live in fear that your child may be shot.

Capital punishment is not available in Canada and some States in the U.S. because human rights groups argue it should never be a part of a civilized society. But we do not exist in a civilized country when we allow evil people to kill innocent members of society and do little about it.

So I beg to differ, and so would Aristotle and Lee Kwan Yew. There are evil people in this world and no amount of social workers, do-gooders, or laws on gun ownership will reform these people and end needless deaths.

I realize that the likelihood of weak-kneed politicians bringing back capital punishment is close to zero. I say this from experience. As evidence, next week I’ll be reporting a personal medical situation in which the entire federal Parliament of Canada should be sent packing due to its irresponsible behaviour and lack of human empathy.

But what do readers think? Are Aristotle and Lee Kwan Yew right? That current gun laws will have no effect on needless deaths unless capital punishment becomes a consequence of the crime? Or are Aristotle, Lee Kwan Yew, and Gifford-Jones lacking in human empathy towards our fellow man?

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones can be reached at

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